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Berber minority shuts off gas pipeline in Libya

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Libyan Amazigh Berbers protest outside the prime minister's office in Tripoli on November 27, 2011 (AFP/File)

Members of Libya's Berber minority cut off a gas pipeline in the western Jebel Nafussa area of the country, local sources said on Monday, to protest their marginalisation in the future constitution.

"Youths from Kabu, Al-Galaa, Jadu and Nalout (in western Jebel Nafussa) closed the main gas pipeline supplying Al-Ruwais, Zawiya and Misrata (electricity) stations," on Sunday, said Abdullah Sleiman, vice-president of the Nalout town council.

The closure of the pipeline is a protest "against the non-inclusion in the constitution of the Amazigh (Berber) language," said Sleiman, quoted by official news agency LANA.

The Libyan high national electoral commission fixed October as the limit for the submission of nominations for the constitutional commission, the body charged with drafting a new constitution for the country.

The Berber, Tebou and Tuareg minorities will only be given six seats out of 60, and said in July that they would boycott the election as a protest.

The three groups are calling for the inclusion of their languages and cultural and ethnic rights in the country's future constitution.

The Berbers make up about 10 percent of Libya's population. They were persecuted under dictator Moamer Kadhafi and continue to feel marginalised under the new regime even though they played a big role in the 2011 uprising that ousted the veteran leader.

They live primarily in the mountains southwest of the capital or, like the Tuaregs, in the southern desert.

At the beginning of July, the Berber withdrew their representatives from the General National Congress, Libya's highest political authority, to protest against marginalisation.

After promising a campaign of civil disobedience to pressure the GNC into meeting their demands, Berbers from Nalout shut off the oil pipeline that supplies the Millitah gas facility.